Once again we find ourselves with an incredibly solid undercard for this weekend. Actually, this undercard should absolutely have its own spotlight. So what should you, the guy with tribal tattoo's and a playlist that still has Fred Durst on it, know about this weekend?
You're telling me it's worth watching but I don't see any Americans with a mohawk fighting on it, so why should I be interested?
Well, I don't know if anyone told you but Chuck Liddell retired.
Oh ok. I thought the rhino he knocked out for Duralast was real. So anyway, who are the foreigners I should be interested in?
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov. Need I say more?
Well, yes...you're still previewing these fights right?
Good point. This fight is amazing. It is everything you want between two fighters who are working their way up the food chain. Dos Anjos had a tough start in the UFC but he's turned into one aggressive SOB. He's on a 5 fight winning streak that includes Evan Dunham, Mark Bocek, and Donald Cerrone. That is a very good list of fighters right there. What I like most dos Anjos is that when he's looking for the submission, it's not a chess match to him. He's not looking to politely deprive you of the oxygen necessary to keep your body going. He's looking to eliminate your worldview. Being able to finish a fight is often just a function of being a bloodthirsty caveman, and dos Anjos definitely has that killer instinct. Yea, he's gone to a decision in his last four fights, bit it wasn't for a lack of trying.
His demeanor sits in stark contrast to Khabib, who is pure concentration and focus in the cage. His winning streak, currently at 5-0 in the UFC, is somewhat comparable to Anjos'. I think RDA's wins are more impressive, but he's also lost a few, including to Gleison Tibau, who Khabib beat.
I favor Khabib's top control in this one. In fact, the bout could be quite one-sided but I also feel like dos Anjos will have the advantage on the feet, where he's been able to look brilliant in spots despite being defensively questionable at times. He cracked Cerrone pretty good, and Cerrone is definitely a fighter I wouldn't expect Khabib to have much success with on the feet. Khabib is the logical bet, but that won't make this fight any less interesting.
My MMA hipster friends aren't convinced I know enough fighters with names that hate consonants and vowels. What do I do?
Talk endlessly about Mirsad Bektic.
He is an absolute beast of a FW. Here he is destroying Joe Pearson in a fight that has some of the most honest commentary you'll hear. Unfortunately the stoppage is awful, but you quickly get the hype. He's 23 and a massive featherweight who happens to be fairly well rounded. He can throw in combination, has an especially good overhand. He typically wants the fight on the ground, where his ground and pound is equally dangerous.
Patrick Wyman talked quite a bit about him on his prospect list (which he has at #1).
His game is still very raw, but coming out of American Top Team, you have to expect he'll continue to do nothing but improve int he near future. It helps that he's fighting the counterintuitive named Chas Skelly. Skelly isn't a bad prospect himself (he's even from my hometown of Fort Worth, TX), and has some Bellator experience to top it off (where he beat Jarrod Card). But it's an awful matchup for him. Skelly is gettable enough on the feet that I'd expect Bektic to take him out early in the fight.
I noticed Thiago Alves is on the card. Same guy who once earned a title shot against Georges St. Pierre and was thought to be his greatest threat?
Now he has a very tough fight if ring rust exists at all fighting the enormous Seth Baczynski. personally I think Alves is still a solid fighter. He's still a very good striker, which is a much needed archetype for a WW division that seems to have as many people as it does people with supernatural raw strength from a college wrestling background, and has the balance to keep it on the feet. The Martin Kampmann loss was very tough, so I'd expect him to be in there mentally. I just worry that he's essentially lost his physical prime. I like him to win this weekend, but it won't be easy.
This is the part everyone should skip because you can't avoid talking about your precious Dallas Stars who are gonna get swept by the Anaheim Ducks, right?
Well, yea. But first off, the Stars are the real Mighty Ducks. Here's a team that got new jerseys (goodbye District 5), a new coach who like Emilio Estevez seems to hate kids, stole a young talented kid from the bad guys (Boston) through sheer luck and circumstance like Adam Banks(Tyler Seguin), drafted an imposing outsider other teams didn't want to take a chance on like Fulton Reed(Valeri Nichushkin), and we almost tied the game up after being down 4-0 (like every game from every movie). We're totally a storybook team. We can win damnit. Plus, have you listened to their head coach speak? Surely we can outsmart that guy.*
Are you finished?
So make me some money.
Alright, Hernani Perpetuo looks great at +283. As in...that's a good chunk of money if he wins. Unfortunately he's not fighting a pylon. Jordan Mein will take him out with a vengeance because Jordan Mein is actually a solid fighter.
But seriously...you can find Seth Baczynski at +323 (!) in some places. That's easily the best bet of the night. Thiago is coming off multiple injuries, hasn't fought since 2012, and is up against a massive WW who lest we forget, dummied Matt Brown; same guy everyone feels is primed to make waves in the division despite being 33, and going 1-4 in the UFC at one point (I think Brown is good, so don't let the jab fool you).
Pat Healy at +177 is also a great bet. It's the token paper odds fight: Healy is winless in his last three, so he's the underdog by default. Masvidal is a very good fighter. He seems capable of doing anything, and everything. Everything except winning when he needs to. I doubt anyone is prepared to make the argument that Healy is not as good as Luis Palomino, Toby Imada, or Rustam Khabilov.
*To be fair, I love his one line: "if you want it...don't go out there and think you want...go out and fucking want it!"**
**Perhaps David Mamet wrote his speech.